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Column Adriaan Mout - IJplein revisited

27 January 2021

Cobouw Adriaan Mout 210119 I Jplein revisited Stadsarchief Amsterdam

In the early 1980s I went to the Festival of Fools on the former site of the Amsterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij right across from Central Station. At the same time Rem Koolhaas (OMA) made an urban plan for this area. It was to be called IJplein. In Delft this plan was extensively analyzed, seen as iconic urbanism, ahead of its time. This also applied, albeit to a lesser extent, to the architecture. To what extent we were already influenced or even intoxicated by Rem Koolhaas' rising star, is difficult to say.

In any case, IJplein was recently declared a municipal protected cityscape. Now, less than 40 years later, this is a nondescript spot in Amsterdam. A bit in the shadows, even the buildings of Koolhaas do not stand out. If you don't have to be there, despite its central location, you will never get there. And when I walk around there, I now look back with some amazement at what this plan was all about at the time.

The wrong architecture in the best place in Amsterdam, is how Jaap Huisman characterized this place in the Parool not long ago. This new status is a missed opportunity for densification in one of the best places in Amsterdam. A stone's throw away, and soon at Sluisbuurt, the residential towers along the IJ River are sprouting up.

The status obtained is mainly the merit of the neighborhood, which wanted to preserve this beautiful place for affordable housing. And there is also support from the professional community. It is important that the layers of time that make the change in the city legible are preserved. IJplein, as a representative of the modernist approach to urban renewal of the 1980s, is part of this. For my generation of architects, the axonometric drawing of that triangle with those strips and blocks will remain in our collective memory forever. That alone justifies this status.